Israeli start-up eases the great parking space hunt

App reduces time of reaching destination by as much as half.

 It takes 21 minutes, on average, to park your car in Tel Aviv. This Israeli start-up could halve the time you waste.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
It takes 21 minutes, on average, to park your car in Tel Aviv. This Israeli start-up could halve the time you waste.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
You can’t find parking. You circle the block, twisting your head as you look for an open spot, but nothing emerges.
One Israeli start-up is solving this frustration. Using real-time data, Tel Aviv-based sPARK recommends parking near a driver’s destination, including on-street, offstreet and commercial garage options.
What differentiates the firm from other navigation and parking services, is its focus on the best nearby parking spots instead of on the driver’s destination.
It takes an average of 21 minutes to park a car in Tel Aviv. In other cities, it can take 17 to 22 minutes to locate a spot, parallel-park and then walk to a destination.
With sPARK’s real-time parking advice, that duration could be halved, according to a study by the Israel Consumer Council.
“Imagine you’re going to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Paris,” said sPARK CEO Zohar Bali.
“Before even going there, you type in where you’re going and it shows you the best parking options around....It’ll say, ‘We think you’ll have a good chance to find street parking,’ and provide you with a custom route. Or we direct you to car parking [facilities] if we don’t think there will be street parking. Always we recommend based on availability, location and cost.”
The company’s smartphone app, “Polly, the parking fairy,” is currently operating in five cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Paris, Metz and Issy-les-Moulineaux. sPARK plans further launches in locales across France, Spain and Belgium for 2018. By 2019, it hopes to be operating in hundreds of cities worldwide.
Launched first in Israel in February 2017, “Polly” has since received awards in Paris for accurately specifying the time of arrival, including parking and walking from the car. The service also allows drivers to compare prices, both on the street and in garages.
In order to expand, sPARK – which now employs 10 people in Tel Aviv – maps out parking options city-by-city, often partnering with municipalities and hiring people with GoPro cameras to stake out the territory.
The company’s platform can be incorporated by an array of firms, from Airbnb to Waze and Google, says CEO Bali. These companies can offer parking discounts and membership services, along with the option to pay for parking via smartphone.
“The big issue is our business model. We are, in a way, disrupting the industry by offering a parking feature to any stakeholder free of charge,” Bali said.
sPARK has received a significant investment from OPnGO, the digital arm of parking-giant Infra Park Group, which operates in hundreds of cities globally and is helping to expand the app’s coverage.
Asked whether an investment by the parking-garage company will present a conflict of interest – in that OPnGO would prefer to direct drivers to its facilities instead of finding a free on-street site – Bali insisted that would not be the case.
“We will recommend a parking option only if it makes sense for the driver.
We will not take other things into consideration. We will not promote their car park unless it is the best option for you near your destination. If we will do... a promotion, we will mention it to the customer as a promotion.”
While some 100 start-ups worldwide are trying to tackle the problem of parking, sPARK is one of the few to partner with a major, established parking company.
The company was founded by Eran Balter in 2012. To date, the company has raised $4m.
from Israel’s Terra Ventures and private investors. It got its start in the TerraLab Ventures incubator, along with receiving funding from the Israel Innovation Authority.